Gondapur village, barely a kilometre from Nawada town, witnessed communal violence after an idol beside the NH-31 was found broken on Friday morning. A mob targeted a marriage party, which came to a Muslim wedding and was staying in a hotel on NH-31, suspecting it of breaking the idol, and pelted their bus with stones and vandalised the hotel.
Police fired two rounds in the air when the mob refused to disperse after lathicharge. The situation was brought under control in a couple of hours and traffic resumed on NH-31 that links Patna to Ranchi. RAF, Bihar military police and local police have been deployed to maintain calm. By Friday evening, the administration got the idol replaced with a new one.
Nawada Superintendent of Police Vikas Burman, said: “The situation has been brought under control. We are registering FIRs on the basis of video and photographic evidence.”
To ensure that the incident does not spark flare-ups, the administration has suspended Internet services in Nawada.
A resident of Gondapur, who identified himself as Mukhiyaji, said, “Some people saw that an idol of Lord Hanuman by the roadside was broken. People gathered and tempers flared. The road was blocked and stone-pelting began. Some people went towards the hotel, suspecting that the marriage party, which stayed there overnight, could be responsible for breaking the idol.”
Head of a neighbouring village, Ram Balak Prasad, said, “It is only suspected that people from the marriage party were involved. They came there last night and danced till late. What happened after that, nobody knows. In the morning, the idol was found broken.”
Villagers said the idol was installed several years ago after several accidents on the highway on that particular spot. “After its installation, accidents have virtually stopped,” said a villager.
Hotel Rose Garden, inaugurated in December 2017, is barely 100 m from where the idol was found broken. Owner Mohammad Qamar Iqbal said, “When I woke up around 6 am, I found a passenger bus parked across the highway, blocking traffic. A mob had gathered and was shouting at those in the marriage party. They then started coming towards our hotel.”
Iqbal alleged that the mob pelted the marriage party’s bus with stones. The helper of the bus, Bodiya, was beaten up, but let off after he said he was a Hindu, claimed Iqbal.
“The mob was raising slogans when it entered the hotel. They broke chairs, set a motorcycle and some items in the neighbouring tyre shop on fire. We closed our gates and made the marriage party escape from the rear gate to the home where the marriage took place. We will be filing a formal report of the damage tomorrow,” said Iqbal.
“Many items we bought to be given in dowry to the groom’s side, including an almirah, a bed and a refrigerator, were damaged,” said the bride’s brother Mohammad Bablu Alam, a resident of Gulzar Nagar locality in Bhadauni panchayat area.
Jitendra Pratap, district convenor of Bajrang Dal, said, “Our demand for replacement of the idol has been met. Now, we want that culprits behind breaking it be identified and arrested.”
Asked about the mob targeting the marriage party and the hotel, Pratap said: “They were the ones present nearby till late. Who else will do such a thing?”
Kailash Vishwakarma, district secretary of VHP, who was among those who oversaw the re-installation of the idol, said, “We don’t know who did such a thing. Obviously, there is an attempt by criminal-minded people to flare things up. We had a peaceful Ram Navami rally. Probably those people were not happy.”
RJD’s block unit president Sanjay Yadav said: “People are making a huge thing out of a small matter.”
Sheikh Pyare, a member of the local peace committee, said, “We think some people were not happy with the peaceful passage of Ram Navami rally. Our people observed restraint amid many taunting comments from the procession, but nothing happened. So now, this has happened.”
Vishwakarma, however, said: “When a huge procession is taking place, it is difficult to control everyone. But any such thing coming to our notice is quickly stopped.”
Asked about mob targeting the hotel, Burman said: “Let the investigation progress. We can be in a position to say anything only after that.”